SoCal Social Services Emphasizes Evangelism
Giving Thanks With A Grateful Heart At Congress Hall
By Captain Carol Seiler –
It will be with real thanksgiving that a wide range of people will soon join together at Congress Hall, as they give thanks for a Savior, for new life on earth and in heaven, and for strength and riches.
Ministry happens regularly in social services programs around the division. The reality of ministry has been happening on the streets of Los Angeles and in program facilities for years. Lives have been quietly but mightily touched by God. There is no question that God’s hand has been present, because there have been challenges that only the Holy Spirit could address. People who by society’s measure were among the weakest and the poorest. People who by society’s measure weren’t worth the 10 dollars a night the government might pay for their “shelter.” People whose stories bring us to our knees.
What an awesome privilege and responsibility the Army has as the branch of the Christian church with one of the strongest traditions of practical Christianity in this country. We are hands and feet for the Lord on front line battlefields. Imperfectly, humanly, unconditionally–the love of God is shown every time someone has a meal or stretches out on a bed in a Salvation Army program. More than 1,000 beds every night, more than 5,000 meals every day, and lives are touched by God. Seven days a week. Fifty-two weeks a year. There are people of faith and people without faith who are used by God to touch a human soul with hope. Sometimes it takes four or five times of being touched before the soul is reached! But imperfectly humanly, unconditionally, God uses these hands and feet.
What an awesome privilege and responsibility the Army has. We have opportunities that are not open to other churches. We are the hands of a Christ who challenged people to recognize their need and believe in him. Sometimes these hands seem rough, callused and worn. Perhaps that is also why this celebration of thanksgiving is so important. The encouragement, the praise, the celebration of real changes through the power of the Holy Spirit is invaluable.
Just over two years ago, the Southern California Division began to cultivate the chaplaincy aspect of social service ministry more deliberately by appointing a chaplain specifically for residential programs; by encouraging links between neighboring corps and residential programs, and through other evangelical denominations and their interest in ministry. It would be wonderful to be able to say that all the plans proceeded smoothly, that the additional workload on staff was no problem, or that social service programs are such strongholds of faith that whole communities were converted. It would be wonderful to report that the “fiery darts of hell” have been silenced. Almost!
And God continues to work through the hands and feet of social service programs, and that for hundreds of men, women and children, giving thanks has a whole new meaning, because of what the Lord has done… give thanks.
Thanksgiving Concert Offers Powerful Impact
The Social Services Thanksgiving Concert promises to be more than just another concert–it will be a unique experience that will have a lasting impact on all those who attend, says Steve Allen, Los Angeles Social Services Administrator.
One cannot fail to be moved when hearing the powerful testimony of Bridget Swick, who was introduced to drugs and alcohol at the age of 9 years by her own mother. After many years of drug addiction, walking the streets and living in cardboard boxes, she stumbled upon The Salvation Army’s Safe Harbor in Skidrow. What happened next was…well, you need to come along to the concert and hear it first hand from Bridget.
For those who enjoy good vocal music, we are happy to present The Haven Gospel Choir, an enthusiastic group of veterans (men and women) who have been addressing substance abuse problems during recent months. The group enjoys singing for Salvation Army and other denominational functions, and many of the members have made Christian commitments since coming to the Haven.
One of the highlights will no doubt be the Los Angeles Day Center Choir, which has 35 members with an average age of 5 years. The choir appears to be in great demand at present and will be making a further appearance on November 25th at the Farmer’s Market for the Salvation Army Kettle Kickoff.
The Red Shield Youth Center, which is based in Pico Union, downtown Los Angeles, will be making their contribution by way of a mime presentation, under the leadership of Irene Lewis. We will also be giving recognition to two national Karate Champions, both of whom are members at the Red Shield. Once again, we would wish to give thanks to God for the tremendous influence on these young people’s lives, including the recent Christian outreach program started at the Red Shield only two months ago, and which is already averaging more than 400 children each Tuesday afternoon.
A time of praise and worship will be led by the Harbor Light Group, three of whom will be enrolled as soldiers. Our own Divisional Youth Band will be contributing to the proceedings under the leadership of Bandmaster Chris Mallett.
Add to this a blessing for the babies from Bethesda House and Santa Fe Springs, the participation of Lt. Colonels Alfred and Sherryl Van Cleef, some video highlights, and much, much more!
So come along and enjoy a rich and varied program as we give thanks to God for the wonderful way in which the Lord continues to change lives in such a radical way.